If you have children, you’re likely to be pestered for movie tickets after the new adaptation of Charlotte’s Web opens later this month. But the images prodding your kids toward the multiplex might be more about animal rights than E.B. White. One Charlotte’s Web commercial airing on Nickelodeon (oddly enough, during an episode of Mr. Meaty) shows heroic bike-riding teens in pig-snout masks “liberating” (read: stealing) a barn full of pigs. Is this illegal? Definitely. Is it appropriate advertising for a G-rated movie? No way. Does Paramount Pictures understand what it’s wading into? You be the judge: The TV commercial ends with a plea for kids to visit SaveWilbur.com, a Nickelodeon / Paramount website that encourages kids to “Say no to bacon” and print out stickers reading “Tofu Rulez.”
Paramount’s official website for Charlotte’s Web includes “educational links” to animal-rights extremist groups including Farm Sanctuary and the Humane Society of the United States.
Last year, Paramount Pictures hosted a 25th-Anniversary gala for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) on its Hollywood studio lot. (We were there too.)
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that “Paramount Pictures made a ‘significant’ donation to Animals Australia” after Charlotte’s Web was filmed Down Under. Paramount’s contribution funded a $500,000 advertising campaign attacking the idea of eating pork. The ads include cookbook-style presentations of “Emotionally Stressed Pork Sausages” and “Traumatised Suckling Piglet.”
Of course, Charlotte’s Web is a work of fiction. The real world, as author E.B. White’s own life attested, is still the real world. (White raised and killed pigs on his own Vermont farm for decades.) In the world of the film’s animal-liberation commercial, White would be the depraved farmer, shocked to find his livelihood exiting the barn en masse.
Paramount appears to be calculating that adults won’t be sufficiently turned off by a blatant animal-rights promotion to take their children to see Unaccompanied Minors instead. The studio might want to remember that the non-vegetarian majority buys a lot of movie tickets. And we could always decide not to.